Now in its seventh series on the beeb, Dragons’ Den is never short of wannabe entrepreneurs who have come up with what they think is a brilliant idea that will make them millions. Or maybe not…
Since Dragons’ Den kicked off in 2005 there have been hundreds of people, just like you and me, who have been brave enough to face the ever critical panel and pitch their idea in return for money and the backing of one or more of the millionaire dragons. Some ideas are so clever, simple and workable they instantly make you wonder Now why didn’t I think of that?
Others are ridiculed and ultimately rejected by the panel…only to have the last laugh when they continue with their dream and reap the rewards. And there are ideas that you think, Now that is just plain silly. And so do the Dragons. Here are a pick of our favourites.
The ones that got away
Life’s a beach towel
Derided in the den and told that their idea wasn’t unique, David and Sarah Glashan slunk away without any money, but their multifunctional beach bag has since been a resounding success for beach lovers. The Itsa is a beach bag which turns into a sun lounger cover, with pockets to keep valuables at the beach or poolside. Simple but effective and with over 260,000 sales worldwide, £1.6 million sales last year and more products in the range, David and Sarah are reaping the rewards. ‘At the time the dragons’ decision not to invest was the right one because we hadn’t got the costings right,’ says David. ‘As time goes on you learn how you can achieve what is necessary to make it happen.’
Riding high on success
Rob Law was humiliated on Dragons’ Den when Theo Paphitis pulled a handle off his Trunki luggage back in January 2008. Especially designed for children, the USP is that kids can put all their stuff in the case, then ride on the back of it when they get fed up with pulling it (roughly five seconds normally!) Despite his set back in the den, Rob has redesigned it and now sold more than 300,000 Trunki globally, expanding the range and selling several other clever travel products for kids. www.trunki.co.uk
Smooth operator reaps reward
South London hairdresser, Sean Palfrey pitched his brush designed to smooth knotted hair in August 2008. A comment to Deborah Meaden about how useful the brush can be for untangling highlighted hair put her back up instantly as she disdainfully told him that she never colours her hair. Oops! It was downhill from there and he left the den with nothing. But since then Sean has struck a deal with Boots and his product is stocked in 600 stores as well as over 1,500 salons including Toni&Guy and Regis UK.
James talks careers
I wish all the ‘ones that got away very well, but I am very pleased with the investments I have made so far
Wish I’d thought of that
Cleaning up with clever tube
Don’t you just hate it when you can see there’s a good half an inch worth of household product left in your bottle but you just can’t get it out? Michael Pritchard cottoned on to this daily irritation and designed a ‘dip tube’ that accesses all the liquid and allows the consumer to use every last drop.
You can also use it upside down to get into awkward corners. Hence the name. The patent on the tube product was not in place at the time although it had been applied for, but despite this Theo and Peter thought it was a sound investment and between them put forward £125,000 for a 20% stake. Over 20,000 units have been sold since then – and counting.
If at first you don’t succeed…
James Seddon’s pitch didn’t go smoothly. After bigging up his water-free egg cooker, when he went to show how it worked, there was a problem. It didn’t work and a cringe-worthy TV moment was born. But despite this two dragons Richard Farleigh and Peter Jones liked the idea and invested, only for the deal to fall through. But James has reworked the product ready for the market this year. And with 10,000 pre-orders it looks like it will be hatched before we know it.
Nuisance callers gone for ever
Who doesn’t want to zap nuisance callers on a regular basis and that’s exactly what Steve Smith tapped into with his nuisance call blocker called TrueCall. This device gives you, the call receiver, the chance to hear who is on the other end before you have to speak to them – if the number isn’t recognised they have to leave their name. Then you can decide if you want to take the call. If you never want to speak to them the TrueCall machine tells them to ‘hang up and please don’t call again’. The dragons were loving this idea and after an unsightly vocal tussle and to-ing and fro-ing with deals and counter deals, eventually telecoms expert Peter Jones won the deal investing £100,000 for a 12.5% stake.
Horror in and out of the den
One of the most strangest pitches to the dragons was Alan Mandel Butler’s horror show spectacular when a gang of actors dressed up as horror characters, groaning, dripping blood and behaving like zombies. Their choreographed vision of a nightmare was a scene from one of their live horror events. These shows are big business in the US but not as yet in the UK. But this particular show called The Sickness failed to impress Duncan Bannatyne who asked why anyone would want to walk through a hospital and be scared. Their cause wasn’t helped when the team made a business faux pas. Theo asked them who was putting up the other £800,000 for the remaining 80% of the company if they were asking for £200,000 for 20%? After a deathly silence they said they were, not realising that money is not the only thing invested in a company. What about the idea and the skills? They walked out of the den with nothing.
Fourteen years work crushed
Businessman Dafydd Thomas’ space-saving revolving bathroom suite brought derision from the dragons. With a toilet on one side, the cubicle revolved 1800 with a shower on the other. Dafydd said: ‘I was told it was one of the stupidest things they’d seen in the den. I explained the prototype was not to scale but Peter went into the shower to prove how small it was. Everything I’d worked for over the last 14 years went down the Roto-Suite drain.’
Easy X Chair
Moving on while sitting down
Not known for his easy going nature, Duncan Bannatyne was reduced to a giggling wreck when he tried out Peter Ashley’s Easy X Chair, an armchair multi-gym. Quick lever movements converted the chair into a gym including a treadmill and cycling machine.
Duncan’s attempt at the treadmill ended with him almost falling off the back of it, much to the amusement of the others. But despite the hilarity retired engineer Paul couldn’t convince the dragons that his idea would work and he left with nothing. But he hasn’t given up. He has now produced an office chair version of Easy X so that busy executives can maintain their fitness, by converting a traditional black leather swivel chair into a multi-gym. Could he be the next one who got away…?